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Why are social interactions found quickly in visual search tasks?

Vestner, T., Gray, K. L. H. and Cook, R. (2020) Why are social interactions found quickly in visual search tasks? Cognition, 200. 104270. ISSN 0010-0277

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104270


When asked to find a target dyad amongst non-interacting individuals, participants respond faster when the individuals in the target dyad are shown face-to-face (suggestive of a social interaction), than when they are presented back-to-back. Face-to-face dyads may be found faster because social interactions recruit specialized processing. However, human faces and bodies are salient directional cues that exert a strong influence on how observers distribute their attention. Here we report that a similar search advantage exists for ‘point-to-point’ and ‘point-to-face’ target arrangements constructed using arrows – a non-social directional cue. These findings indicate that the search advantage seen for face-to-face dyads is a product of the directional cues present within arrangements, not the fact that they are processed as social interactions, per se. One possibility is that, when arranged in the face-to-face or point-to-point configuration, pairs of directional cues (faces, bodies, arrows) create an attentional ‘hot-spot’ – a region of space in between the elements to which attention is directed by multiple cues. Due to the presence of this hot-spot, observers’ attention may be drawn to the target location earlier in a serial visual search.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Perception and Action
ID Code:89527


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